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Needle In A Flapjack

Posted on 30 May 2017 @ 2:15am by Lieutenant Joey Geisler & Captain Harvey Geisler

Mission: The Finnean Crisis
Location: Intel Complex
Timeline: 1300 Hours

Joey moved inside the Intel Complex and took a deep, calming breath. She didn't like the idea that the CO and XO were going over to the planetary base, and no amount of Security personnel... no matter how qualified... made her feel better. Still, she couldn't focus on any of that right now. The Intel Chief and her team still had a job to do, and that's what needed her focus presently.

She moved over to one of the consoles and settled down at it, not entirely sure what she was looking for, but this was likely one of those moments where she'd just know it when she saw it. Joey looked over at the others present. "Which one of you wants to volunteer to help me find leads on the planet?"

A grunt could be heard on the other side of the room. A Tellarite Petty Officer named Mofrich Torg, one of the ship's few sensor analysts, was the source. He'd only volunteered once, and that was when he enlisted. From that point on, he'd sworn to do whatever was assigned. "I will not volunteer," he gruffed. "But I will help as duty requires me to. What sort of leads are we looking for?"

Joey accessed the console in front of her, and like on the bridge, patched into the ships around them to continue listening in. "We're looking for anything that might prove useful once the Captain and his team are done with their negotiations. An individual, a place... anything that might lead us to the probe," she answered. Even she knew such things as the negotiations never went as smoothly as one hoped, and that was past experience talking. "I'm listening in on the ships that seem to be having a Mexican standoff as well. Perhaps, they'll provide us with information unknowingly."

"Anything that might prove useful?" The Tellarite grunted. "What is the human expression? Finding a needle in a flapjack? Sounds like the Captain has asked for the impossible."

Flapjack? she wondered before it dawned on her. "Needle in a haystack," Joey said, biting her lower lip to keep from laughing. Mila was the only other individual she'd ever heard butcher a saying before, and she'd done a hell of a job. "It won't be easy, but if there's anything to be found, we'll find it. Are you up for the challenge?"

The Tellarate grunted, his species' equivalent of a human nod. "Do you at least have some direction?"

"As a matter of fact," she began, pulling up an image of the planet on the screen in front of them. "I do. We're going to start here..." She pointed out a couple areas that were barren and mountainous with conditions that most people wouldn't want to find themselves in. "The Second and Sixth Steadings... Selubassari controlled. We start with the obvious first, then work our way out from there. Questions?"

"Obvious," the Tellarite muttered, turning to look at his screens. "We still need a magnet." He knew one wasn't coming, so he began to fiddle with the controls. "I'll take the Second Steading then."

"That means I'll take the Sixth. Let me know if you find anything," Joey said, as she turned her attention back to the console in front of her. While she searched for something... useful... she continued listening to the other ships, hoping someone would say something that could be a possible lead.

"Anything is rather broad," he gruffed, turning to his own controls. After a few moments of scanning, he called out, "Second steading, aye. Looks like the surface has seen better days. A lot of deforestation and harvesting has stripped millions of acres clean."

Joey frowned. "That's all I'm seeing in the Sixth, as well." If only she knew what she was supposed to be looking for, then maybe this wouldn't seem so impossible. It didn't appear that there was anywhere to hide the probe in these areas. Would they have paid someone to hide it for them? She had no idea, and that was beginning to aggravate her in ways she never thought possible. "I'm beginning to think you're right about this being an impossible task, but we're not going to give up."

The Tellarite enjoyed a good challenge. It was his job to sift through mountains of information to find just the micron of latinum hidden inside of it. "I'm getting high concentrations of life," he reported after several minutes of scanning. "But no urban areas near them. Low amount of Selubassari in those areas, and a high mix of Finneans and other species."

Joey arched a brow. "And I'm picking up quite a few shielded areas. Now... what could our friends on the surface possibly need these for?"

"We know they don't like the Rakhari," replied the Tellarite. "What's the reason for their cold war anyway? Who pissed the other off first?"

She didn't have any answers to that, but if she had to guess, the Selubassari was. "I'm sure that's something we're going to end up finding the answer to at some point. You said you were getting a large number of Finneans as well as other species? Any way you can try to pick up on that?" Joey asked, looking to her screen where the shielded areas were.

The Tellarite tapped a few buttons and called up a closeup of the scan on his screen. "Looks like labor camps," he muttered. "Either that, or tightly organized workgroups."

"I'm willing to bet they're labor camps," she said with a frown. "And based on the mixed numbers of Finneans with others, I'm willing to bet they've been forced into becoming slaves. The Second Steading is known for exporting raw minerals and gemstones, and the Sixth is known for its precious metals. They aren't likely to mine for any of those themselves."

He tapped a few more controls, trying to get some more data on the situation. "Lieutenant... this is strange." The Tellarite worked his controls a bit more to confirm what he was reading. "Many of the shielded areas are near these labor camps. There's a few in isolation, but not many. There also appears to be some sort of data traffic between each of them and Deep Space Fifteen."

Joey arched an eyebrow and rose to her feet to stand behind him to get a better look. "See if you can pick up what it is."

"It's highly encrypted." The Petty Officer called up a visual of the data stream. "Nothing I've ever seen before. And, I can't seem to penetrate the compound."

"What are they hiding?" Joey wondered out loud. "Keep trying. Even if you can't, at least you would have done everything you can. I'll see what I can do on my side." She returned to her console to settle back down again, then tried to see what she could get from the shielded areas in the Sixth Steading.

"If I could scan through the shielding, I would tell you," grumbled the Tellarite. Humans. He adjusted his focus to several of the labor camps, trying to ascertain what species were represented. "Back to the laborers. I'm reading Karemma, Dosi, Deltan, Risan, Human. Not in high concentrations, but scattered among the laborers in all of the camps."

"And I'm getting the same in the Sixth, and as you mentioned earlier... quite a few Finneans," she stated with a frown. Joey returned to listening to the chatter from other ships in hopes that someone would give them something. While she did that, the Lieutenant went to work trying to make it through the shielding.

"I can understand Karemma and Dosi," said the Tellarite. "But why Alpha Quadrant species? I'm reading nearly one hundred lifesigns representing thirty AQ species." He looked at the Chief. "Lieutenant, you served here before. Were the Selubassari allowed to do this?"

"Not that I saw while I while I was here, but then, I left roughly five months ago. A lot can happen in that time," the Lieutenant responded with a frown. It didn't seem as though they were going to get the answers they hoped for this way, which meant she'd have even more to look into when she posed as a net girl on DS15. "As for the why... we'll know soon enough."

The Tellarite was left to his work for now, scanning and analyzing what he was reviewing.

Meanwhile the comm chatter Joey was monitoring remained steady. Broadcasts ranged from groups coordinating with each other to blatant shouts between the Rakhari and Selubassari to a low-level transmission in the native Finnean language, hiding beneath the others.

Joey just barely heard the low-level Finnean transmission over the others. She moved her fingers over the console to focus entirely on it, then increased the volume a bit. She couldn't make anything out prior, but that was all about to change. Hopefully, it would be something helpful.

"Find ways to resist without causing trouble. Slow your production. Slow your walking. Your families will find ways to rescue you," came parts of the transmission. Other bits were garbled, many of them condemning the Selubassari.

The parts that condemned the Selubassari didn't surprise Joey. In fact, not much of what she just heard did. "This is going to get a lot worse before it gets any better," she said with a frown.

"Lieutenant?" asked the Tellarite, wondering what she meant.

"I just picked up on a low-level Finnean transmission," she began, fighting off another frown. "They condemn the Selubassari. They're being instructed to resist without causing trouble... slowed production... slowed walking. It would seem the laborers families are trying to find out ways to rescue them." Joey leaned back and pinched the bridge of her nose. Now she was worried that those who resisted in any way... would end up dead.

"Rescue?" replied the Tellarite. "From my understanding of the Selubassari, which is limited to what is in the databanks, servitude in their camps is linked to either indebtedness or imprisonment."

"Or blackmail. Or any other number of reasons that won't paint them in a positive light. No matter how you try to paint this picture, those in the labor camps aren't there because they want to be," Joey said. "They control DS15, as well as two Steadings on the planet. Do you think that happened because they played nice with everyone else?"

"Only the Federation plays nice," the Petty Officer stated. "Still, judging from what the scans are showing, the labor force has increased in size by five hundred percent. Scans aren't showing any major resources at the site of the camps. In fact..." The Tellarite paused, taking a closer look. "They're just digging."

Joey took a deep breath. "In 2370, the Federation approached the Steadings leaders with the creation of DS15. It was designed to be a research and repair station, as well as to offer a transshipment point for their own goods. This was all in exchange for resources and to study ruins with the promise that any information their archeologists found would be shared. The Federation also agreed to protect the planet and maintain peace between anyone who wished to trade in the system."

Torg, again, grunted. "According to the databanks, all known archeological sites are in the Third Steading, which appears to be free of any Selubassari, Rakhari or any sort of alien lifesigns, except Federation scientists at the dig sites. So, why are they digging elsewhere..."

He tapped a few more controls and performed a deep surface scan. "Looks like there's some sort of energy signature below the surface. Completely residual. It matches the other dig site and..."

"And what?" Joey asked, getting to her feet to stand behind him once more.

"This." Torg pulled up an image of the Convergence Zone and pointed at it. "Both the ruins and this zone share a quantum resonance frequency. Our sensors weren't capable of anything like this until just a couple years ago, so back when the Federation signed the deal with the Finneans, they wouldn't have known about this."

"When we first began our search, I mentioned a probe... in particular... trying to locate an area where said probe could be hidden," the Lieutenant began. "That probe was sent by our Captain. From the future. It's now in the possession of individuals that shouldn't have it." Suddenly... something clicked. "The Selubassari may not have the probe at all. When DS15 came online in 2374... the planet dwellers were quite envious of the advanced technology. Of course... they didn't want to cause any trouble, but times have changed... circumstances have changed. The Selubassari would make great scapegoats all things considered."

The Tellarite had forgotten about the probe, but without getting his hands its actual resonance frequency, he'd have a tough time finding it. "Scapegoats for what?" Torg asked. "Are you suggesting they're being manipulated? Or framed?"

"The possibility is there. If you wanted to be free of someone who was forcing you to do something you might not want to do, and finally had the means to do it..." she moved back to her own station and sat down again. Maybe she was grasping at straws, but all avenues needed to be exhausted. "The Selubassari would be the obvious ones to have taken the probe. No one would have thought to look elsewhere. Manipulation is also a possibility. I just don't know the who or why."

Joey looked to be deep in thought, then turned toward Torg. "The same probe that was sent is currently on board the ship. It won't be sent for some time yet. We should be able to get the frequency from it to track down the stolen one."

"We might have to loop in Science for this," Torg replied. "Detecting quantum frequencies is one thing, but if the probe in question is the same, but older, than what we have on board, then the frequency will match ours and most of the planet. And, it's most likely in one of the shielded areas, which we're unable to penetrate."

"Then... we'll just have to get to the surface, won't we?" the Lieutenant asked. Net girls were on the planetary base, but they were also known on the surface. Only Joey's first day on the job, and already she was having a hard time trusting anyone. For all she knew... someone on this ship was the reason the probe was sent in the first place.

"Until we get the all clear from the Captain, that's not going to happen," Torg warned. "But at least we found some needles in the flapjacks. Do you have a plan to go deeper?"

Joey couldn't help but show a minute smile at the use of "flapjack" again. "We did, and I wouldn't dream of doing anything without the Captain's approval ahead of time. As a matter of fact, I plan to speak with him about that, and the needles that were found, the moment he has a free moment," she replied. "There are a lot of pieces to this puzzle, and we need to figure out how they fit. As for a plan... I'm working on one. I'll let you know what it is as soon as it starts coming together... that way you can offer insight, ideas and give your two cents. For now... we need to get with Science and see what can be done about the probe."


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